Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category
Three elements of a bigger picture about Mexico City that I’m working on. These are fans of the city’s three soccer teams: Cruz Azul, Pumas, and Club América.
Five Things I Could Do with a Certain Degree of Confidence Were I to Be Named in Tonight’s Yankees Line-up
Five Things I Could Do with a Certain Degree of Confidence Were I to Be Named in Tonight’s Yankees Line-up
Swing my bat standing in the on-deck circle
Tap the catcher’s shin guards with my bat
Have my ass patted by the first base coach
Chat with the first baseman
Argue with the umpire
Five Things I Absolutely Could Not Do with a Certain Degree of Confidence Were I to Be Named in Tonight’s Yankees Line-up
Hit the ball
Field the ball
Steal a base
Not have a beard
Spit sunflower seed shells without them dribbling down my chin
Via The Classical, this nice wee compilation of Lionel Messi being knocked around, having his shirt tugged, and being hacked down… and getting back up and playing football.
Every 8.11 days of this year, I attended a sports event. An ice hockey game, a day at the races, and a night of lucha libre, three football games, and 39 baseball games. On Boxing Day, I went to the last of those sporting events, the Blue Square Bet Premier League game between Lincoln City and Grimsby Town at Sincil Bank. The league is, to me, still called the Conference. It’s the fifth tier of English football. What used to be called (and probably still is) “non-League football,” meaning it’s not part of the Football League. It’s all quite confusing; all you need to know is it’s four whole divisions below Liverpool, Arsenal, etc.
Lincoln City were the first professional football team I watched regularly. In the late eighties, in my late teens, with a job in a supermarket, I had a few spare quid to go now and again to watch them. They had slipped out of the fourth tier the year before, and I watched them play in the Conference and go straight back up. Lincoln City have never really been that good. For all of my life, they’ve never been higher than the third tier, and most of the time, they’ve been in the fourth tier. But, on the last day of the 2010/11 season, they lost and were relegated.
Grimsby Town, their opponents on Boxing Day, were relegated to the fifth tier the season before. Grimsby, for those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the United Kingdom, is also in Lincolnshire. Prior to the Grimsby game, the highest attendance for a Lincoln City home game this season was 2, 448 (on the first home game of the season). There were 5,506 there for the Boxing Day local derby, around 1,700 of which had travelled the 37 miles from the north Lincolnshire coast to the, ahem, big city.
A ticket in the Lincolnshire Echo Stand, along one of the sides of the pitch, costs £18 at the turnstiles (EUR 21.58, USD 28.21, CAD 28.75, MXN 395.31). You can see a Toronto Blue Jays game and have enough money for a beer for the same price. It wasn’t too cold; a bit nippy. Windy, though, so I got a cup of tea from the little place selling snacks and drinks. The milk was already in the tea when it came out of the big urn. Players from both teams warmed up on the pitch. Running little drills. The PA played a few pop songs, stuff that I assume is in the charts. Closer to kick off time, the PA played The Jam’s “A Town Called Malice,” and “All or Nothing” by the Small Faces, who, Wikipedia tells me, played at Sincil Bank in 1966 with the Who and the Kinks.
Closer to kick off, the music ramped up a bit. First, with the Dam Busters March, the theme tune of the film about the World War II operation where No. 617 Squadron set off from RAF Scampton, a few miles outside of Lincoln, on a mission to bust the shit out of dams in the Ruhr valley with bouncing bombs. That was followed by Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. And then we were ready for football!
Being a local derby, there was a fair bit of back and forth chanting between the fans of both teams. Both sets of fans taking turns to shout “Who are ya?” at each other, and minutes later shouting “You’re the shit of Lincolnshire” at each other. That seemed odd, considering they’d both been asking who they were.
On the field, it got off to a frustrating start. Not much space on the pitch. Well, actually, there was a ton of space on the pitch, but like pre-teen children, all the players seemed to be following the ball around. It was all too crowded for anyone to do anything. If any player showed any element of skill, it seemed inadvertent. A nice touch here, a yard of pace, a pass into space: all let down by the team-mates who hadn’t seen what might happen.
Throw-ins and goal kicks would see the teams assume their formations in small areas of the field. Every outfield player is in about a sixth of the field for the free kick that the goal keeper is taking in the photo below. It was depressing to watch. This wasn’t football. And if this style were to somehow sweep the globe so that Barcelona and AC Milan were playing like this, I’d stop watching football all together.
(More depressing than the style of play, though, was hearing someone behind me refer to Lincoln City’s black French midfielder Jean-Francois Christophe as being “just like a gorilla.”)
One good thing, though, was that the ball they played with was like the black-and-white panelled ball you automatically think of when you close your eyes and think of what a football looks like (that is, like this Adidas Telstar ball). I can understand that changing the way a soccer ball looks might be a good boost for sales of balls for Adidas or Nike or whoever, but it seems like a bad idea. A baseball is a baseball, and pretty much looks like it always has. Basketballs, American football balls, tennis balls, hockey pucks: they don’t change every few years. Why should soccer balls change so often?
After ten minutes or so, Lincoln City began to take control of the game. They had more possession, and it was quite often in Grimsby’s half of the field, and just after half an hour, Conal Platt put Lincoln ahead. Lots more chanting from the Lincoln fans:
“We are Imps! We are Imps!” (That’s Lincoln City’s nickname.)
“Sit down, shut up! Sit down, shut up!” (Directed at Grimsby fans.)
“Stand up if you love Lincoln, stand up if you love Lincoln.” (I stayed in my seat.)
And my favourite, the profound, humorous, and subtle “We hate Grimsby and we hate Grimsby, we hate Grimsby and we hate Grimsby, we hate Grimsby and we hate Grimsby, we are the Grimsby haters!”
Lincoln were good for the lead; had a couple more chances too, but, half time score: Lincoln City 1 Grimsby Town 0. I spent the break watching the clouds and some pug-faced Lothario who was chatting up a woman while her companion was away buying tea. I listening to people talk, listening to the Lincoln accent, the half-time analysis, and the post-Christmas chit-chat. The smell of Pukka pies and burgers, instant soups and halitosis. An air raid siren sounds, and the Dam Busters March fires up again. Grimsby Town kick off, Player A touches it to player B, as is customary. Player B passes it a few yards back to player C. Player C hoofs it as hard as he can into the far corner, and his team mates all set up in the defensive formation I’d spent 45 minutes watching before the break. Clearly the Grimsby Town manager must be an NFL fan, cos he certainly doesn’t seem to be a fan of soccer.
On and on. No real skill. The wind picked up and so did Grimsby. Lincoln, who were looking good for a win at half time were doing nothing in the second half. It was all Grimsby, and after just seven minutes, Scott Garner equalised. The visiting fans celebrated. Because the visiting fans’ area of the ground was small, they were compact and loud. They sang that they were the pride of Lincolnshire. They taunted City fans: you’re not singing any more. That was quickly followed up with a take on the old standard chant, “you only sing when you’re winning,” instead re-fashioned to reflect the town’s maritime industry: we only sing when we’re fishing.
The old man sat behind me said to his companion, “It’s not the same game, is it?” He was referring to Grimsby’s utter dominance early on in the second half, but conceptually, he’s right. It’s not the same game at this level. This is, and it bears repeating, not football. Grimsby scored a second goal nine minutes later. And from then on, the City fans were pretty quiet. The Grimsby fans were loud. They sang the team’s nickname in three elongated syllables: Ma-rin-ers. I had forgotten that that was their nickname. And my mind drifted for a while, as my eyes followed the ball on (and quite often, in the air above) the field, my mind drifted to thinking about the Seattle Mariners. That leaping mind trick where a tiny thought chain links other things, places, and events, and I was thinking about my time in Bellingham, Washington. But it didn’t last long: there was a fairly cavalier challenge by a Town player on the edge of the penalty box. Players were in a huddle, pushing each other around, and when a player from either team was subsequently shown yellow cards, the home fans questioned the integrity of the referee. The resulting free kick was at least on target. But the keeper saved it.
It did seem, though, that it had sparked a bit of something in City. With less than ten minutes to go, they looked like they were trying a little. The Grimsby fans, though, were gearing up for victory. All on their feet, singing “Grimsby ’til I die” (a horrendous thought, frankly), and “Mariners black and white army.” The latter chant was sung pretty much solidly over and over and over again for the last seven or eight minutes of the game. It was probably the most impressive thing that I got for my £18.
The final whistle blew up. Imps 1 Mariners 2. I walked into town, overhearing amateur Alan Hansens and Mark Lawrensons dissect the game. Because of the local rivalry, there were a fair amount of policemen gathered along the High Street, especially outside the pubs nearest the ground. But I just trudged home, kind of shocked that the style of football was so bad. It makes me wonder if it was that bad back in the 1987/88 season when I went to a lot of games. I don’t remember it being that bad, but that’s just a biased memory: I don’t want to remember it being that bad because, on the whole, I used to enjoying going to Sincil Bank.
Maybe one day, though, I’ll somehow become a multi-billionaire and I’ll want some sort of sporty plaything, and I can buy Lincoln City, build a fancy new stadium, invest in expensive players and watch them rise swiftly through the divisions, and then one day, they’ll challenge for the Premier League title, and everyone else will hate Lincoln City for being a tacky nouveau riche club; but I will sit there in a fancy coat, with fancy friends, and I will watch Lincoln City beat Manchester United 5-0, as I happily wolf down a Pukka pie.
A few weeks ago, in the lead up to the book being published, the guy in charge of publicity at Bloomsbury mentioned that the Yankees beat writer (the guy who follows the team around and writes about every game) from the Wall Street Journal was interested in doing an interview at one of the Yankees vs. Blue Jays games I’d told him I’d be attended here in Toronto. Sweet. It’s been a nice process so far doing bits and bobs of publicity here and there, and Jeremy, the aforementioned Bloomsbury guy, has done a marvellous job.
I told Dan, the WSJ guy, my seat number for Friday’s game, so we could say hello. We met, and he told me I’d have press credentials for the next day. Internal jump for joy. I was all excited, and found it very difficult to sleep, knowing that I could arrive at the ballpark early and hang out there before the game started. Ordinarily, I’d not tell you about a dream I’d had, but it seems relevant here: I dreamt I was at Fenway Park watching a guy build the Green Monster before a game. In the dream, the Monster was made from blocks of that corrugated plastic stuff that For Sale signs are made from. I was chatting to the guy, and he stopped talking, his eyes widened, and he nodded in the direction over my shoulder, and whispered, “Dude, there’s Kevin Millar!”
Up early on Saturday morning. Quick email with Dan re. where we’d meet. He told me we should meet “on the field.” On the field!? It’s funny how normally he mentioned it. And funny how my brain spiralled wondering how the hell that sort of thing works. I showered, dressed, put on my cap, and walked to the SkyDome. At the place where I was supposed to pick up my pass, I told the guy my name, he gave the me the pass, and directed me to take the elevator down to field level. Spoke to another guy there: go that way until you get to the big curtain. Got there, and another guy scanned the barcode on my pass, and directed me down a tunnel. A tunnel which went right to the visiting team’s dugout. Two small steps up from there, and I’m on the field. On the field while the Blue Jays are taking their batting practice. On the field where Yankee pitcher A.J. Burnett was chatting to Blue Jays player, Aaron Hill. It’s very difficult to describe the sense of forced calm one has to hang on to at a moment like that.
Dan arrived moments later, thankfully. We shook hands, and he mentioned that I should take off my Yankee cap because I was today, for all intents and purposes, a member of the press. We chatted, I rubbed the artificial turf with my foot and touched it with my hand and noted that the warning track here is made of the same grade of AstroTurf as the green part of the field, kinda negating the “warning” part of its name. Dan gave me a brief idea of what he wanted to do for the day, which began with hanging around the visitors’ dugout until the Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out to do his pre-game interviews with the press. Right then and there I started to feel uncomfortable around the armpits. The YES camera set up, Kim Jones came out, a bunch of other dudes with notepads and tape recorders got into position as Dan beckoned me to stand next to him, just a few feet away from the Yankees manager. Sweat. So much sweat. I was so nervous. And I felt so uncomfortable. It wasn’t real. Why am I stood here? There’s Joe Girardi talking about CC Sabathia and I can hear him with my ears, not just on a web stream through a computer. Sweat, sweat, sweat. My back is like a waterfall. No exaggeration, sweat is streaming down my back.
At the end of Girardi’s interview, as we wandered across the field to the Blue Jays’ dugout, Dan noticed my nerves, and gave me his notepad and pen, and told me to just pretend to be a reporter; write stuff down. As all the Yankees writers got their turn to talk to the Blue Jays manager John Farrell, all I could do was scribble and notice how huge the man is. Marvel Comics thighs, that man. I looked around on the field. Jays players throwing balls around, Jays (and former Yankees) catcher José Molina chatting to former player and broadcaster Buck Martinez. As the Farrell stuff winded down, I introduced myself to Marc, another Yankees beat writer who I follow on Twitter. He, Dan and I had a chat back in front of the Yankees dugout. I tried to take it all in, what it was like to be on this side of things, looking out at the fans with cameras and balls waiting for player autographs. One thing to note: the area of ground right in front of the player dugouts, on the fake grass, is really sticky. That’s where they spit out their sunflower seeds and bubblegum juice. Moving your feet around is like when you’ve spilled Coca Cola on the kitchen floor. It’s kinda disgusting.
Our field time was up, so we left through the same dugout tunnel. This time, though, I passed by Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. Just a few feet away. Mariano Rivera. Just sat there. Mariano Rivera. We were heading up to the press box. Dan suggested we go through the clubhouse. I get my pass scanned again, go through a door, and, oh, y’know, there’s Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner just looking at stuff on a laptop. There’s Freddy García buttoning up his jersey. There’s a bunch of other players sat on couches watching TV highlights of yesterday’s games, and there’s Jorge Posada with his trousers around his ankles. It most definitely isn’t every day that one sees one of the best offensive catchers in history in his underpants. But I did on Saturday. Taking it all in, Dan said we should go. I’m glad I hadn’t already looked at the other end of the clubhouse, cos there sat signing a bunch of merchandise was Derek Jeter. I’d managed to go past some of my favourite players without losing my cool, without even smiling. I had done good.
Up in the press box, the first thing I noticed was the smell of burnt popcorn. And the air conditioning was nice. And it was quiet. Men – and it was virtually all men – chatted amongst themselves, ate lunch, drank sodas. The whole time we were in there, you’d never have known it was Dan who was supposed to be asking me questions: I asked so many questions, about ballparks, teams, his job, players. What’s this guy like? Is that guy a dick? Who’s the nicest guy you’ve dealt with? Who’s the worst. Out of respect for Dan being honest, I can’t tell you what he said about who were the good guys and who were the dicks, but one thing he did say that it was okay to tell you: what you think about most players is probably true. There were only a couple of players that I was wrong about. But mostly, it was fun to hear someone confirm that players I think of as people who might be dicks are dicks.
I took advantage of my press credentials and went outside for a cigarette. Regular Blue Jays customers — like I usually am — can’t re-enter the stadium if we leave, but my fancy pass allowed me to do that. The game was about to begin, so we went into the stadium proper to find empty seats — something else the passes allowed — and watched the game and he turned his tape recorder on, and I started yakking about my book and infographics and the game. We watched a few innings from far and high above the outfield, down closer to the field. We moved around a lot, all the time chatting away. When his recorder was on, his sentences ended with a question mark; when it was off, mine ended in a question mark.
Sat up in the very back row above home plate, we baked in the sun, and stood up for the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and made our way back down to the press box. So nice and air conditioned. But so very, very quiet. Top of the ninth, Derek Jeter hit a single to center field. It was so difficult not to acknowledge. I wanted to clap, do something, but I put my hands on my knees and quietly tapped. This is the press box. No rooting. Quiet. The aforementioned CC Sabathia has been excellent, giving up one run in the first, but shutting down the Jays for the following seven. Entering the ninth, the Yankees had a 4-1 lead. Time to bring in Mariano Rivera. He strikes out the first guy. Tapping my knees. Quietly. Allows two singles. No reaction, Craig, keep it in. Another strikeout. Knee tapping. And he gets a groundout to win the game for the Yankees. Tap knees. Happy happy inside. It was the first win of the three Yankees games I’d seen so far in Toronto this season (they went on to win Sunday’s game too).
Dan had some post game stuff to do, so I went to meet friends who’d gone to the game as regular spectators, and excitedly relayed as much info as I could, as quickly as I could. We drank beer, and ate nachos in a bar. And generally had a ball of a night. Drinking, and talking about baseball. It was an utterly joyous way to end a ridiculously exciting day.
In all the excitement of getting to see Major League baseball, and more specifically, the Yankees for the first time this year, I forgot to mention this. I had a chart about Derek Jeter in Sports illustrated. Yay. It’s in the current issue, which will as of Wednesday be the previous issue, so should you wish to see it, you should probably hop, skip, or jump down to a newsstand today or tomorrow.
After the awesome Under-17s World Cup semi final between Mexico and Germany, in which Julio Gomez became something of a national hero, when he scored the first goal, suffered a head injury after clashing heads with a defender trying to head in the second goal (it went past both players and into the net anyway), being stretchered-off, to be bandaged up, covered in blood, and with the game at 2-2, scored a spectacular winning goal to give Mexico a much deserved place in the final; after that, whatever followed could never be as exciting. And the final against Uruguay wasn’t as good, but it was still a very enjoyable game to watch. Mexico won 2-0. As soon as the game was over, my friends Sam, Lina and I went to the Ángel de la Independencia in the centre of the city to join the celebrations. It was spitting with rain when we left the flat, and the sky turned dark, thunder, lightning, and it pissed it down. But that wasn’t stopping anyone from celebrating. We live quite close, so we got there quicker than most, and there were already a couple of thousand people there. It was fantastic fun. Once all of our clothing was wet, there was little to worry about. It was quite the fun experience. I wonder if English people would’ve rushed to Trafalgar Square in the pouring rain if we’d've won the Under 17s World Cup..? Sadly, I doubt it. More photos on Flickr.
Well, today one of life’s boxes got ticked: being in the New York Times. All the credit, though, should go to a man called Jeremy, who is the guy handling promotion of my book. He was the one who managed to get my work in there. So, yes, today’s New York Times, page 15 of the magazine, looks like this:
“Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure” is in stores on Tuesday. More info here.
In less that two weeks, something will begin that I never ever imagined I’d care about. In less that two weeks, I’ll begin my seventh season caring about that thing. That thing is baseball. Specifically Major League Baseball; played by all but one of its 30 teams in the United States. In 2005, I went to a game with friends at Yankee Stadium. And since then, my interest and love of the game has grown and grown. I did some drawings, some charts and graphs, made a Web site about the game, and last year, wrote/drew/infographicised a book about the game. That book, fine and distinguished credit card owners that you are, will be published on July 5th. The game, though, isn’t solely played within the borders of the United States and in Toronto. It’s played in Japan, and more pertinently for me, in Latin America.
Before we go on. Seeing as though the readership of this blog is shrinking and shrinking I imagine those who are bored of reading about baseball will have stopped paying attention by now, so I’m going to stop doing that thing I occasionally do: apologising for writing about baseball. If you’ve stuck around this long and are still reading, I’m gonna guess that you either a) like baseball and like reading about it, or b) just skip the baseball stuff without deleting the RSS subscription in your news reader thingy.
As I said, the Major League Baseball season begins in less that two weeks. But the Liga Mexicana de Béisbol season began on Saturday. Mexican baseball is what I will mostly be watching this season. It is Triple-A calibre baseball. That, in football (soccer) terms is like the second division. But more than that, it’s baseball in a different country. A different culture. And while it would be stupid to pretend I wouldn’t rather be watching the New York Yankees playing the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, I now have the opportunity to do something I’ve never really done before: support a local team.
I grew up a Liverpool F.C. fan living in Lincoln, so that was television fandom on the whole. There was one season (1987-88) when, as a newly solvent teenager with a job in the warehouse of my local Asda supermarket, I went to a fair few Lincoln City F.C. games. But apart from that, I’ve always supported from afar. I tried to get into Hertha B.S.C. in Berlin, but it never really became more than a passing interest. Since then, having started enjoying baseball, I’ve been a fan of a team in a city that I’ve visited more than any other, and after that initial exposure in 2005, have returned to New York on trips timed around series of Yankees home game in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. (For reasons I always seems to be mentioning, I didn’t see go to Yankee Stadium in 2010, and I doubt I’ll go again this season either.) I spent last summer in Toronto watching the aforementioned only non-U.S.-based MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I went to 32 Blue Jays games, and I enjoyed getting to know their team better, but I could never really be a fan, because they are division rivals of the Yankees.
But this season could be different. I’m in a different country, there’s a baseball league, and I live in a city with a team in that league. So it’s time for me to become a Diablos Rojos del México fan. (The irony is not lost on me that my new local baseball team is called the Red Devils, and, as a Liverpool fan, I fucking loathe the English football team with that nickname.) And on Saturday, I went to the game, the inauguración temporada. Not only was it season opener, it was the guerra civil, the civil war. Diablos Rojos were playing Tigres de Quintana Roo, a team that until 2001 played in Mexico City. I guess it’s the Yankees-Red Sox of Mexican baseball.
My mate Scott was here visiting for the weekend. He’s also a baseball fan, so we went along early to soak things up. The Metro journey wasn’t so full of fans, but the close we got, the more noticeable they were. And there were fans of both teams. On the pedestrian overpass approaching Foro Sol, the Diablos’ ballpark, I saw what I assume were a father and son. The son had a pinstripe Yankees jersey with GEHRIG 4 written on the back in faded black marker pen. The father, again in a Yankees home jersey, had JOHONSON 51 on the back. This sent my mind darting around, like old documentary film of room-sized computers with lights flashing and tape reels spinning around. If, as I suspect, this was meant to be a Randy Johnson jersey, it was a) spelled wrong, and b) has the wrong number. Randy did wear number 51 for the vast majority of his major league career. Apart from his first few games with both the Expos in 1988 and the Mariners in 1993, the only time he didn’t wear number 51 was for his two seasons with the Yankees, where he wore 41. This was because tip-top coming-to-the-end-of-his-career-Yankee-player Bernie Williams already wore 51.
From the overpass, the outside of the stadium looked pretty busy. Lots of people milling around. Scott and I began taking note of the MLB teams represented with caps and jerseys of fans. In the end we saw merchandise of all but four of the major league teams (no Mariners, Marlines, Rockies, or Royals). But, of course, most people there were Diablos fans. The place, though, did have what I’d estimate was about 10-20% Tigres fans. I’d bought tickets in advance, and my crappy Spanish had thought I’d bought tickets in a decent, shaded section behind the infield. Not so. I’d bought tickets for the concrete bleachers that extended along the first base line in the outfield. Can’t grumble, though, considering the price: 30 pesos (2.50 US dollars/1.52 British pounds/1.76 euros/0.00175 gold ounces).
We were there early enough to sneak into the better section, though. Flashing the tickets at an usher, talking in English, he let us through to go and look in the Diablos store, which was fairly sparingly stocked. Even though a lot a Diablos fans had a lot of different era jerseys and caps, the store only seemed to sell the most recent items, sadly. I could really go for one of these 1980s era caps.
Having gotten ourselves into the area of the park where we could access the better seats, we sat down, got a beer and I did something that one doesn’t get to do very often at a sports venue these days: had a cigarette. No smoking ban here. Joy. Because it was the first day of the season, the players of both teams were all announced one by one.
They lined up along the base paths, and then la popular actriz mexicana Carmen Salinas wobbled onto the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In the outfield, a brass band stood erect waiting their moment. The loud voice through the PA system announced that we should stand for the anthem. And… it was really quiet. The band were quite far away and not mic-ed up. As the anthem progressed, the spectators picked up the slack and started singing along. There a few fireworks, too. And they looked as good as fireworks always tend to look in daylight: rubbish.
After the anthem, and as the players warmed up, my Mexican pal Samuel called me. Running late, where are you? I went down to meet them, but the usher wasn’t letting them sneak through. So we went to join them in the section we’d actually paid to watch from. There was a bit more space there, too, considering that a few members of Sam’s family were joining us. We sat on the not-as-uncomfortable-as-I’d-imagined concrete bleachers, drank Coronas, ate esquites, smoked cigarettes, chatted, and enjoyed baseball. Lovely, lovely baseball.
The Diablos got off to a good start with a three-run home run in the first. Tigres came back with four runs in the third, Diablos getting another in the bottom of the third, tying it up.
A couple here, a couple there, afternoon gave way to evening, and it was tied 6-6 at the end of the ninth, so we got some free baseball. An extra inning. Tigres got two runs, which the Diablos couldn’t match. So my first game of the season, my first proper game as a fan was a defeat. The smattering of Tigres fans amongst the 28,700 crowd (a new LMB attendance record) made some noise. ¡Ti-gue-res! ¡Ti-gue-res! Turning a two syllable word into a three syllable word for better chanting opportunities. Time for some tacos.
My new team will be playing on the road until next Tuesday. But they’ve won the three games they’ve played since that first game against the Tigres. But I’ll be there again on Tuesday evening, hoping to see the Diablos beat Vaqueros Laguna (Laguna Cowboys). I think I’m going to enjoy baseball here.
This is a drawing I did towards the end of last year. It’s former L.A. Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, and poet Robert Frost. I did this drawing for the mostly-about-baseball website Pitchers and Poets. In the end, they just used the figures without the background, but I still like it, so here ’tis.
One doesn’t really expect a club like Barcelona to be regional partners with a brand that looks so… so… crappy. But they are here.
Been a while since I bothered to go through something step-by-step. Not sure if anyone cares, but for the three people out there who may care, here’s a step-by-step of drawing the Ron Artest thing.
A bit of background. These figure started off a bit more cartoony than they ended up being. Of course, they’re still a bit of cartoony, with the slightly over-sized heads, but before, they had no really facial detail, and no necks. The first dudes I drew, back in 2007, were some Liverpool FC players (Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, John Arne Riise, Steven Gerrard, and Dirk Kuyt), and soon after that I did a wee animation for Japanese magazine, ELLEgirl, featuring male and female luchadores.
At some point last year I revisted the drawings and started drawing Major League Baseball uniforms. I wanted to do drawings of players, and felt like fiddling with the template a touch. Because I have a perfectionist and completist streak, I did all the uniforms before I drew any players. Below are some of the MLB templates, and here are some of the players I’ve drawn so far. After doing the MLB uniform dudes, I did NFL dudes, and Premier League dudes. And so far, I’ve done one NHL dude.
And when the Artest thing came along, it came time to draw a template NBA dude. Now, this is the point where, because I’m a white liberal pansy, I started worrying about the fact that all of the other sportsmen templates I’ve drawn were the same skin tone. There was no real reason for that other than I wanted the uniform templates to look like templates, so they all kinda had to be the same colour (and being that white liberal pansy, you’ll notice that they’re all slightly darker than the original LFC players; because I did MLB players first, I decided to do them with a slightly darker Latin American skin tone. Not that all Latin Am- oh, jeez, I’ll stop over-explaining…). Here’s the few template unis I did specifically for the Artest thing.
Here’s where the facial characteristics of the portrait come into being. So, the baseball guys had caps, and the NFL guys had helmets, so the first time I really did a full head was the Premier League templates. I took that and changed the skin tone to be more like Ron’s.
Next step with these drawings is to do a real basic outline of what makes the guy the guy. So with Ron, it’s his head shape and (currently) a wee beard. I do some rough changes to the template to bring those in, and with each step try to refine the drawing.
Still not particularly looking like Ron…
But it takes a step closer with the addition of some shading to highlight the cheekbones…
And then even more so by taking away some of the head shape to make the cheekbones more prominent.
A few more tinkers and we’re done.
Here’s an animated GIF of each step of the process.
A basketball thing today. My friend Scott told me about an art show at Narwhal Art Projects in Toronto called “Lovable Badass – Artists on Artest.” As you may have guessed from the name of the show, it was a bunch of artists all making stuff about Ron Artest. Scott had an idea, did some research, and I did some visual research and then did the artwork. You can see it full-size here. And at the opening of the show, my friend Joe took this photograph of Ron Artest in front of my drawing of Ron Artest. Hurrah!
Here it is, the cover of my forthcoming book Flip Flop Fly Ball. I remember one day back in the spring of 2009, when I was in a right shitty mood, two things I was working on were cancelled. One of them in particular would’ve been awesome. For me, at least, specifically because of the people involved. I’ll write a blog post about that some day. Well, on the day that two things were cancelled, I got an email from the publisher of my third book Atlas, Schmatlas, saying they weren’t interested in my proposal for a book about baseball infographics. As days go, that one sucked.
But, what it did do was make me think about what to do with the graphics I’d created for the proposal. The sporty stuff on Flip Flop Flyin’ was never particularly popular, so it seemed like a good idea to create an offshoot website so non-sporty people could ignore the sports if they wanted to. While I was building the site, designing the masthead, creating more graphics before it went online, the name of the site in my head was going to be High Cheese.
In the end, though, I went with a baseball-related pun on the name of my regular website. It went online mid-June 2009, and with the help of Twitter, fairly swiftly became the most viewed part of the Flip Flop Flyin’, ahem, empire. In July 2009, I had a couple of meetings with book industry people in New York, and I got to work on a newer, better proposal. By December, I had a deal with Bloomsbury USA, and the work began.
I immersed myself in baseball in the German winter, through the Torontonian spring and summer, and finished it up in the Mexican autumn. And now, it’s completely finished. And I’m allowed to show you what the cover is like. Here it is. Of all the graphics in the book, this one took the longest to do. Mostly because it has to be different things to different people. It should speak immediately to those people who’ve already seen my work as “that English dude’s infographics book,” and it should speak to people who’ve never seen my site, and just happen to be sauntering through the sports section of Barnes and Noble.
Anyway, I’m pretty proud of it.
It’s out in the spring next year.
Man, there’s a lot of ugly stuff in the Premier League. And I feel especially sorry for goalkeepers, who seem to bear the brunt of the designers’ more idiotic ideas.
I’ve done this for Major League Baseball and the National Football League, too. You can see those over at Flip Flop Fly Ball.
More of this kind of stuff–mostly baseball-related–over at Flip Flop Fly Ball.